FTSE closes below 2012 opening level after drop
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index fell back on Friday after a choppy four-day week, in which it closed for the first time below its level at the start of 2012, led by drops in banks and commodity stocks on rising concern over global growth and European debt.
At the close, the FTSE 100 index .FTSE was down 58.67 points, or 1.0 percent at 5,651.79, having rallied 2 percent over the previous two sessions which almost recouped a sharp 2.2 percent drop at the start of the post-Easter holiday week.
"Just two weeks ago, at the end of the first quarter analysts were reflecting on the gains made by global markets, now the FTSE finishes another down week erasing all of the gains for the year," said Andrew Crook, trader at Sucden Financial Private Clients.
"I wouldn't to be too surprised, if the bears really take hold, to see no firm support until 5,590," Crook added.
Weakness in banking stocks .FTNMX8350 was the biggest drag on the blue chips, with the sector retreating after gains of about 3.5 percent over the past two trading sessions. Barclays (BARC.L) was the worst performer, down 3.8 percent.
Lenders suffered from ongoing concerns about their exposure to the European sovereign debt situation as worries over Spain's rising borrowing costs resurfaced.
Spain's benchmark government bond yield jumped above 5.9 percent on Friday after data showed Spanish banks borrowed heavily from the European Central Bank in March, reviving concerns over the country's finances.
Bank shares were also under pressure on Wall Street, with JPMorgan (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N) lower despite both beating quarterly earnings expectations, the first numbers of the U.S. sector's first-quarter reporting season.
By London's close, U.S. blue chips .DJI were down 0.6 percent, having jumped 1.4 percent higher in the previous session, knocked by more below-forecast U.S. data.
The first April reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in below expectations at 75.7, against a consensus forecast of 76.2.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices showed a modest rise in March, up 0.3 percent, albeit as expected.
MINERS TRIPPED UP
Miners .FTNMX17670, which had been higher earlier on some bargain-hunting, turned lower after the U.S. consumer sentiment data which added to concerns about the strength of the world's biggest economy, tempering the demand picture for metals.
Copper prices fell back, having already been lower after Q1 GDP numbers from China earlier on Friday showed the top metal consumer's economy grew at its slowest pace in nearly three years in the first three months of 2012.
Commentators, however, had been relatively unperturbed by the China data.
"While the GDP figures fell short of expectations....I don't think it is a disaster, the headlines tend to spook a number of investors but the reality is the underlying growth remains that is robust and around 8 percent per annum is still an incredible performance when compared to most areas in the world," said Henk Potts, market strategist at Barclays Wealth.
There were just seven blue chip gainers at the close in London, headed by low-free float Russian metal firms Evraz (EVRE.L) and Polymetal International (POLYP.L), squeezed 2.3 percent and 0.8 percent higher respectively.
Supermarket group WM Morrison (MRW.L), up 0.4 percent, also bucked the weak trend after the Financial Times said the firm plans to announce a store revamp, with the stock also supported by an upgrade to "buy" by Berenberg on Thursday.
Drugmaker Shire (SHP.L), brewer SABMiller (SAB.L), and utilities International Power IPR.L and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE.L) were the other blue chip gainers.
(Additional reporting by Philip Baillie)
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